Ranji Trophy: Mumbai face familiar foes in unfamiliar territory

The Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Cricket Stadium on the outskirts of Chhattisgarh’s capital city will stage its maiden first-class match, with defending champion Mumbai facing familiar opponent Madhya Pradesh in a Group A tie.

Mumbai won the first match against Tamil Nadu and drew the second against Baroda.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

It is a series of firsts for Indian cricket this year. First came the pink-ball Duleep Trophy in August-September; then it was the debut of Chhattisgarh as the 28th team in the Ranji Trophy on October 6; this was followed up with Indore emerging as the 22nd Test venue in India on October 8.

On Thursday, the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Cricket Stadium on the outskirts of Chhattisgarh’s capital city will stage its maiden first-class match, with defending champion Mumbai facing familiar opponent Madhya Pradesh in a Group A tie. Understandably, the virgin wicket will be the focal point over the next four days.

Both the teams’ captains and coaches spent a lot of time inspecting the strip during a prolonged training session on Wednesday, as the players slogged it out in the practice nets next to each other, instead of on either side of the square.

Aditya Tare, who led Mumbai to its 41st Ranji title last season and veteran Devendra Bundela both hoped for an even contest.

This will be the fourth meeting between the two teams in three seasons. Still, there will be a tinge of unfamiliarity. Madhya Pradesh all-rounder Jalaj Saxena has turned professional for Kerala and just like Mumbai’s Iqbal Abdullah, Madhya Pradesh will continue to miss the services of senior pro Naman Ojha, who hasn’t recovered from the side strain that forced him to out of the first two games.

Mumbai too has had a new look for a variety of reasons with its season-opener against Tamil Nadu seeing two new debutants. With sturdy batsman Siddhesh Lad having recovered from a back injury, Armaan Jaffer, one of the three newbies may have to make way.

Both the teams have had a sound start to the campaign so far. After beating Tamil Nadu in a nail-biting opening round, Mumbai’s lower order staged a fightback to ensure three points against Baroda last week, thus putting the team at the top of the points tally.

Madhya Pradesh is sitting tied at second spot, thanks to its resounding win by an innings and 64 runs against Uttar Pradesh in the opening round. However, Bundela and his men will need to turn the tables quickly after suffering a disappointing loss against Punjab last week.

Squads:

Madhya Pradesh: Devendra Bundela (capt), Vikrant Singh, Mukul Raghav, Aditya Shrivastava, Rajat Patidar, Harpreet Singh, Rameez Khan, Shubham Sharma, Ankit Dane (wk), Mihir Hirwani, Ishwar Pandey, Gourav Yadav, Ashwin Das, Chandrakant Sakure and Saransh Jain.

Mumbai: Aditya Tare (capt. & wk), Akhil Herwadkar, Jay Bista, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Siddhesh Lad, Abhishek Nayar, Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, Tushar Deshpande, Vijay Gohil, Kaustubh Pawar, Nikhil Patil, Sufiyan Sheikh (wk), Vishal Dabholkar and Royston Dias.

Other Group A matches:

>Bengal vs Punjab at Bilaspur

>Tamil Nadu vs Uttar Pradesh at Dharamsala

Gujarat vs Railways at Rohtak

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